Delay in transitional justice process
Increasingly, international community has been showing its concern over the delayed transitional justice process of Nepal. They have, time and again, reminded the government of Nepal’s obligation to the international treaties and drawn the attention of the government to resolve this issue in line with the international standards and the verdict of the Supreme Court. They sent such reminder once again on Tuesday. In a joint statement, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and TRIAL International claimed that Nepal has made no real progress on justice, truth and reparations for victims of gross human rights violations and abuses committed during the decade-long conflict. They are unhappy that though two commissions—Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP)—have been set up “to address conflict-era atrocities, they have not been effective and impunity and denial of access to justice to victims remain prevalent.” Their particular concern is related to the supposed government’s move to appoint commissioners in TJ bodies without making necessary reforms in the legal framework.
The covert pressure from the international community over transitional justice process can be interpreted in two ways. First, TJ process is Nepal’s own affairs and the international bodies have no business telling Nepal how to take it forward. Some of the leaders inside the ruling as well as opposition parties seem to subscribe to this view. Second, Nepal itself is to blame for inviting such concerns from international bodies because it has not been able to resolve the cases of human rights violations and abuses committed during the times of conflict. The second view is what we need to consider.
As things stand, Nepal’s transitional justice process has failed to make a substantive progress due, mainly, to inadequate efforts from the Nepali actors to resolve it. The transitional justice bodies remain headless now. And the political parties have not been able to fill those positions mainly because they are seeking to appoint officials based on political affiliation rather than merits. The appointment process seems to have taken considerably long time because of this particular factor. Meanwhile, victims’ groups and Nepal based human rights organization have also raised concern that the government might re-appoint past commissioners or make political appointments that will not be adequately impartial. At the same time, concerns are also being raised about the possible internationalization of Nepal’s conflict-era cases. The principle of universal jurisdiction allows investigation and prosecution of crimes such as torture, committed by any person, anywhere in the world. The statement released on Tuesday has mentioned that “a citizen of any country, including Nepal, suspected of such crimes faces the risk of arrest and prosecution for these crimes in countries that apply universal jurisdiction.” In this situation, Nepal has no option but to make necessary reforms in the transitional justice act, appoint the officials in transitional justice bodies through fair and transparent process and ensure that conflict-era cases will be resolved by putting victims at the center. As we have reminded in this space several times before, the time is running out and stakes are high.